Do you know Jack?

Jack of All Trades…

Yeah, we all know what comes next. It’s a way of describing someone who isn’t really good at any one thing. A bit flaky perhaps. Dipping in and out of various jobs maybe. Not like someone with a proper job. Like A Doctor or A Lawyer or A Civil Engineer. You wouldn’t find a doctor mixing it up with a bit of plastering. Or a barrister leaving chambers early to finish off that big topiary job at number 11.

I’ve had this issue (one of many) for a few years. I started my working life as a radio journalist. I did a post graduate course in the very subject. But only because the magazine one was full. Then after ten years of radio I started my own business and ended up working in the games industry, making funny noises.

Now I’m doing a bit of everything. I’m back in radio, writing for a couple of magazines and working on my books.

But there’s been this nagging doubt for year and years. People aren’t supposed to do that. When people ask me what I do for a living I end up saying, “A bit of this and that,” which makes me sound like Private Walker from Dad’s Army. I think they expect me to open my jacket and try to sell them a Relox watch or something. And every time I’m asked for Profession on forms I give a different answer. One minute it’s journalist or writer, the next it’s sound designer.

And when I’m in one place I feel like I don’t belong. At least, not 100%. In amongst a bunch of game developers I always felt a bit of a fake. Talking to an editor, I get a guilty feeling. I’m a fraud you see. Not 100% any one thing.

It’s just that it doesn’t seem right to have different strings to one’s bow.


I’m reading a book by Marianne Cantwell about being a Free Range Human. I normally stay clear of anything remotely self-help orientated, along with books I consider (in my ignorance mostly) to be a bit “pointy-headed”*.

But my wife bought it for me and she’s a very wise woman. And she’s from Yorkshire.

A few chapters in, Marianne uses a term I’d never heard before. But it’s one that suddenly crystalised everything. Brought my doubts into focus. Then delivered them a knock-out blow.

Portfolio Career.

Having a range of skills, talents and experiences. Being able to turn our hand to different tasks based on different abilities. So what if I write and also work in audio? As it happens, I sometimes write about sound so these things don’t exist in totally different worlds. It’s more like a Venn diagram.

I’m not a Jack of All Trades, I’ve got a Portfolio Career.

Ooh, get me.


*A term we used to use at Newsbeat, to describe the Radio 4 people down the corridor. Its origins are quite rude. It does not apply to Marianne’s brilliant book.